Get people (at least 16 is the best size, but it works with groups of 50 or so) to undertake collectively the following tasks:-
Identify the factors over the next 10 years which will affect them, and/or their area of work. It is important that people specify things which can be easily judged (ie not generic phrases like “technology”), or indicate a direction (eg “increased international communications”, and not “communications”). Don’t get too hung up about this since in the end it is a device, not an attempt to predict the future.
Then get people to agree which are the most desirable, and the most undesirable factors (usually no more than five of each). Depending on what you are doing, you can make the criteria for selection highly restrictive (ie no compromises allowed), or pretty relaxed. Also, depending on what you are doing, you can do this according to individuals’ own interests or the interests of their organisation, team or community.
Then get people to compare the desirable and undesirable lists. Ask them to define what it is about what they value most in life (or in their business environment or whatever) which explains the difference between the desirable and undesirable lists. After five minutes or so of confusion and a couple of false starts, what pops out is usually riveting stuff, and quite unlike most similar exercises.
The results can be taken in all kinds of directions, depending on what the task is. It can form the basis of a vision (eg if your organisation was behaving along these lines and was wildly successful what could it achieve in 10 years?). It can form the basis of organisational evaluation (eg if your organisation were applying these values what would it be doing in practice; where is that happening now and why do you think it happens there and not elsewhere?). You could use the futures list, and the values to help develop strategy or be part of an environmental scan.
If handled well the process can be a lot of fun, but it needs to be treated seriously; there is a real danger that people and relationships can be hurt by some of the discussions it generates. But that is true of any process which gets close to the core of what we are as individuals, teams, organisation and communities.
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